Takhini North residents who bought homes with rotten plumbing have finally been compensated, but the city isn’t saying by how much.
However, a source close to the talks suggested the case was settled for more than $440,000, a figure that works out to an average of about $5,600 per resident.
Last April, 73 Takhini North residents took the city to the Supreme Court for failing to intervene when a development corporation sold them lots known to have faulty water and sewer lines. Residents were forced to shoulder the cost of upgrades, priced at $1 million.
During the summer, the residents, the city and the Yukon Law Society’s insurance company, which was representing a group of lawyers named in the lawsuit, agreed to resolve the dispute out of court.
Monday night, council agreed in favour of the settlement agreement, but could not mention the specifics of the deal.
“We should be making an effort in contacting the other partners to make this public,” said councillor Doug Graham.
“I just believe we’re spending public money and the public has a right to know what we’re spending that money on … This is the one thing about the settlement that bothers me.”
Details of the agreement would be made public “one way or another,” said councillor Jeanine Myhre.
“It would be nice to somehow do it, (in a way that is) friendly, so there is no game of secretive cat and mouse.”
A clause in the settlement agreement specifically asked that confidentiality between all parties be maintained.
But it wasn’t the residents who pushed for it, said Patricia Cunning, appointed spokesperson for the Takhini North residents.
“We’re happy that it’s finally settled, but the confidentiality agreement wasn’t something the residents had asked for,” she said.
“They (the residents) would like to see it public.”
Initially, a gag order had been requested, said Saskatchewan lawyer Ron Cherkewich, who represented the Takhini North residents in the lawsuit.
With a gag order, not even the settlement itself can be mentioned publicly.
“My personal view is that because of the public money that went in – based on the requirements of transparency – every citizen, not just the 79 involved in the lawsuit, should know the details (of the agreement),” said Cherkewich.
Monday, councillors voted to strike the confidentiality clause from the agreement.
The city has made a request to the other parties, but hasn’t yet received a response, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.
To date, the city has already spent $44,000 on legal fees.
This past year, the city was in and out of court dealing with a separate lawsuit from Cunning.
Rather than join her case with the other Takhini North residents, Cunning initially opted to fight her case in small claims court.
Cunning would only say that the recent agreement represented “a global settlement,” and wouldn’t reveal whether she would continue her legal challenges against the city.
“I’m bound by the agreement and can’t comment further,” she said.
But Shewfelt said the settlement has dealt with those grievances.
Last fall, the city stuck a $1-million bill on Takhini North residents to upgrade their waste and water systems.
Individual costs for the local-improvement charges were assessed at between $9,000 and $17,000 per lot based on the frontage of their lots
The total also included costs associated with hooking each residence up to the upgraded waste and water system.
When entering into mediation this summer, residents requested
$880,000 to cover the costs of the local-improvement charges.
The final costs that will be paid out to the residents will be borne by the city and the insurance company representing the Yukon Law Society.
The city was alerted to the water and sewer problems in Takhini North way back in 1989 when Public Works Canada did a utility assessment of the area and deemed Camp Takhini, as it was known at the time, to be in violation of municipal regulations.
The development firm, 18001 Yukon Inc., bought the Takhini North lots in 1998 for more than $2 million.
At the time, three of the principal officers of the development firm were also working partners or associates at the law firm Preston, Willis and Lackowicz, which was working for the city. The city was reminded of the infrastructural problems once more before the lots were sold to 18001 Yukon Inc. But Whitehorse didn’t mandate the developer to upgrade the water and waste system as was suggested by public works.
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